SDN – Part Vier

So I have hinted how firewalls integrate into this new world. Up to now, firewalls were just virtual guests and you have to use network routing to direct traffic to them…just you like you do in the real world. So you can take a stock off the shelf ISO image of a firewall and load it into VMware and have it monitor traffic with no modifications. I actually do it all the time with my labs. So what has changed???

[QUALIFICATION: I have little experience in R80 or how PA or others operate in a VMware environment. This is just my gather of thoughts from speaking with others, CPX, and reading documentation. So put a grain of salt on this discussion. As I gain experience I’ll update the blog]

So what is about to change is the integration between VMware and the SmartCenter database. Currently a firewall only knows other about other VM guests if a user creates an object and types in the IP address of that VMguest. So if I create 1000000000 VMguests I have to type them in by hand.

Well, in the new world SmartCenter will automatically keep track of the VMware objects through the REST interface. SmartCenter will poll vCenter (see, they even named them similarly) to keep track of what VMware objects exist. SmartCenter will put all the VMware objects into the DataCenter bin in SmartCenter. From the DataCenter bin, you can use them in rules and push the rules to the firewalls in Vmware.

(Question: If a VMware object is deleted, and you are using the object in a rulebase, does that mean the rulebase gets updated automatically???. Not sure.That would be bad.)

So we have this Borg Cube with 30,000 processors on it and tens of thousands of VMobjects. Let’s say we get R80 going and it just sucks in all 30,000++++ objects and puts them into the DataCenter bin. Wouldn’t that be a mess? And its only going to get worst as the virtual world grows. Imagine what the naming scheme looks like, it will be all over the map.


But I diverge…So let’s talk about why CheckPoint might have the edge in the virtual market.

[This is all by word of mouth, so make sure you ask your vendors. Email me if I’m right/wrong]

There is a Facade that the firewall vendors want you to see, and its based on a VMware restriction and not a vendor restriction. Once a firewall is integrated into the hypervisor, (currently it is CheckPoint, PA, Fortinet) it is like having a host based firewall in each virtual guest. Well The Reality is that you will have to run a (many??) separate firewalls as ‘special’ virtual guests and the hypervisor will direct traffic to that ‘special’ firewall and it will emulate being embedded into the individual virtual guest.

As I said, I have been told that this is a VMware restriction and not a firewall vendor restriction. I am not sure if this applies to the native VMware firewalls (basicallly IPchains, pretty primitive). But MAYBE, IF Vmware is actually embedded within each virtual guest, that is all you really need and not all the wizbang that commercial firewall vendors offer. Ask your vendor.


So what does this architecture mean:?

  1. Hopefully the ‘special’ firewall(s) will be tuned to utilize CPUs for performance because they will need it if it is suppose to support a whole Borg Cube (CheckPoint SecureXL, CoreXL)
  2. Unfortunately there will be a performance hit as traffic has to be shuttled to a separate ‘special’ virtual guest to be filtered. Perhaps in the short term it makes sense to virtualize environments that do not have a performance requirement.
  3. Hopefully the management environment will be able to scale as Vmware environment scales (CheckPoint MDS – NOTE: R80 MDS details have not been released. Only SmartCenter. So not sure how VMware will integrate into R80 MDS.)
  4. I am not sure how service chaining will work. Recall that in VMware you can create a rule that says ” HTTP traffic from vmguest A to vmguest B go through firewall C”
    traffic steering
    in addition, I guess in R80 this can be dynamic so admins can isolate vmguest A as a ‘bad guest’, change it security tag, and require that its traffic be ‘filtered’ by a firewall. So I am not sure how service chaining will integrate into this architecture.


So I am here in Germany drinking a really nice  Weisbier, sunny, 6pm, my woman is cooking for me,  and I’m running out of things to rant on about. Maybe tommorrow, SDN can wait.

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  • Rick Weaver  On June 29, 2015 at 9:47 am

    Love the posts, and would like to review the password protected content. How do I setup my password?



    On Mon, Jun 29, 2015 at 3:53 AM, DreezSecurityBlog wrote:


    • Dreezman  On June 29, 2015 at 10:41 am

      Geez, the ink isn’t even dry. I’m still working it. Thanks.

  • mrevilnerd  On June 29, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    Doing a whole lot of similar research myself in the realm of next generation security. This gets my creative brain juices flowing in the realm of control plane firewalls inside of SDN but it’s only part of it. Next we have to start thinking about how easy doing things like monitoring central traffic, doing SSL decryption, automated incident remediation etc and the other side of the coin on how it will be easy for advisories to do the same (and hide network flows) if the controllers are compromised. Would love to have a beer and discuss further if you are ever in washington DC.

    • Dreezman  On June 30, 2015 at 12:04 am

      Agree, monitoring/debugging/forensics will be a bitch as it scales and is so dynamic. Beer is good. See you there.

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Helen's Loom

"Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." - Kurt Vonnegut

Life Stories from Dreez

These are stories from my travels. Generally I like to write stories about local people that I meet and also brag about living the retirement dream with my #1 wife Gaby. She is also my only wife.

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